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Funnel-web Spiders in the UK!

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Labyrinth Spider in her funnel-shaped web by G. Bradley

Spiders, spiders, spiders.  If I had a penny for every spider enquiry I receive I'd be a rich man.  Never a day goes by and I don't get at least one email from some poor, terrified soul wanting to know if the spider in their bath/kitchen/bed/garage/garden/underwear is a killer!

In the summer months it's the turn of spiders in the garden, or more specifically the "Deadly-funnel-web-weaving-child-eating-hedge-monster-spiders" as they're often described by the panic-stricken emailers.

We don't actually have any funnel web spiders in the UK.  The Sydney Funnel-web Spider (Atrax robustus) and the Northern Funnel-web Spider (Hadronyche formidabilis) are both found on the other side of the planet in Australasia.  However, that doesn't stop people's imaginations running wild when they see a funnel-shaped spider web in their garden hedge.

At this time of the year, the funnel webs in our gardens are normally the work of Labyrinth spiders.  Labyrinths are common, shy little critters, and being a dull grey-brown colour they go largely unnoticed.  It's only when they start building their webs that they draw attention to themselves.

At one end of the web there's a funnel shaped retreat.  It's this funnel which can cause people to worry unnecessarily.  In fact the web is really quite a magical piece of defensive architecture, designed to protect the spiders eggs.

The eggsac of a Labyrinth Spider at the centre of her funnel-shaped web by G. Bradley

If you were able to shrink yourself down to the size of a labyrinth spider and travel down the funnel you would enter a spiralling labyrinth of silk corridors.  If you found your way to the centre you would eventually arrive at the curious looking egg sac, tethered in mid-air by strands of silk from all sides of the labyrinth.

Unlike the Australian funnel-web spiders, the bite of the labyrinth doesn't cause humans any real problems.  In fact we're quite fortunate here in the UK in that none of our native spiders pose any real danger to most of us (despite what many of the online sites say).

Some people do have severe allergic reactions to spider bites, in the same way some people suffer anaphylactic shock from wasp/bee stings, but this is rare.

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